Do you want a sermon with that?

A travel company’s blurb on a walking tour of Italy says:

Whilst at your discretion [the company] recommends arriving/departing by train where possible within Europe due to this method of transport’s minimal carbon emissions.

Is that the end of the sermon, or are they going to recommend that we don’t drop rubbish, eat too much, drink immoderately or do any of the other things which might impact on the health of the planet or ourselves?

While one company’s preaching at us, another is making us pay for their penance.

I don’t have a problem with supermarkets, or other businesses, charging customers for plastic bags – there’s a cost to them, someone has to pay, it might as well be the users and if that encourages more people to use reusable bags which in turn reduces rubbish that might be a good thing.

I say might because I don’t know if the total impact of manufacturing and eventually recycling or disposing of reusable bags is actually better for the environment than that of making and recycling or disposing of plastic bags.

But that’s an argument for another time, it’s paying the penance  about which I’m quibbling now.

 Foodstuffs (New Zealand) managing director Tony Carter will only say that it will be making “substantial contributions” to environmental causes, with the majority of the money charged for bags earmarked for this use.

* I’m a little confused by this because it appears customers are being charged extra for something that will be better for the environment and then the company is using the extra money to contribute to “environmental causes”. *

If this is a good policy for bags, why not give the majority of the profits from everything to environmental causes because everything they sell will impact on the environment?

Or, if resusable bags really are so much better for the environment, why not just charge the cost price and let customers choose what to do with the money they save by not having to pay the supermarket extra so they can give it away?

If , however, charging more so supermarkets can donate more is a good thing, why stop there? Why not donate some of the profit from pet food to the SPCA and from anything which doesn’t meet the low fat, low sugar, high fibre prescription for healthy eating to the Cancer Society or Heart Foundation?

Is that any sillier than donating most of the profit from reusable plastic bags to “environemntal causes”?

I don’t have anything against businesses making profits or choosing to give some of those profits to worthy causes, but the idea of charging more than they need to then giving the excess away is a bit too much like a government taking more tax and redistributing it for my liking.

I use reusable bags, at least I do when I remember to take them, and being charged for the plastic ones will almost certainly help me remember them more often.

I don’t have a problem with the user-pays-save-the-planet policy, it’s turning it into a mission I question.

Businesses should do what’s best for them and, like all of us, minimise their negative impact on the environment while they’re doing it.

But they can keep the sermons and if they choose to pay a penance, they need to understand they’re not doing us any favours by charging us more to let them do it.

Lou Taylor at No Minister  reckons retailing is a bloodsport and:

The retailers who survive are the ones who can evolve with the times, control their overheads and are prepared to accept lower profits from time to time.

They might also be the ones that forget the sermons and don’t expect us to pay their penance.

P.S. Apropos of reusable bags, Liberty Scott shows the Greens don’t get the idea of choice.

* I was confused, this policy applies to plastic bags not resuable ones.

UPDATE: The Visible Hand in Economics posts on industry based solution vs regulation

UPDATE 2: Poneke has made a welcome return and posts on a related matter: indulgences we can do without.

One Response to Do you want a sermon with that?

  1. Werd says:

    I’m not convinced at all that the proposition is worthy. Many (most?)
    market bags are reused. I still need bin liners but will need to buy them instead of reusing.
    Surely greater environmental gains could be made by reducing unnecessary packaging eg outer package of toothpaste. The tube alone contains the contents sufficiently.
    Aside from supermarkets, other waste has a huge impact. I acquired a new monitor last week. By the time I unpacked it I had a small mountain of waste – cardboard, lots of polystyrene, various plastic bags, plastic film, stickers/labels, twist ties and even three surplus cables. Not only did I pay for it all in the purchase, I will also pay again to dispose of it.
    Environmentally there must be targets of greater potential than market bags.

    Like

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